"It's OK though, cause from grey skies come blue,
through darkness comes light and I'll be known as the Guru..."
Keith Elam July 17, 1966 – April 19, 2010
After Guru's cardiac arrest and time in a coma, I was afraid this would happen and through all the pain Guru was going through and all of the controversy and messed up bullish with Solar...
I am glad that Guru is now in a better place but it doesn't make things any easier, Guru was straight up one of my all time favourites and this also means that Gang Starr is gone and I don't want to get into personal ish, but I am also very sad that Guru didn't patch up things with DJ Premier before he died. The king of monotone, who once proclaimed that is was mostly the voice...Keith Elam was born in Roxbury, Boston in 1966 and on an upbringing of all types of music, he eventually formed Gang Starr in 1987 with DJ 1 2 Be Down (aka Mike Dee) and ended up releasing "The Lesson" on Wild Pitch records. in the same year.
After a couple more 12"s, Gang Starr in 1989 and lone member Guru received a beat tape from Waxmaster C (DJ Premier) and Guru invited DJ Premier to join Gang Starr and they recorded "Words I Manifest" and later released, what DJ Premier refers to as his demo album, No More Mr Nice Guy in 1989, and Guru said "took them two weeks" on "Form Of Intellect"
No More Nice Guy is a cool little album that featured James Brown (RIP) samples and beats from DJ Premier, DJ Mark The 45 King and Guru himself, then known as The Guru Keithy E.
In 1990, Gang Starr released their classic second album, Step In The Arena, which spawned the hits, "Just To Get A Rep", Who's Gonna Take The Weight", "Take A Rest". "Love Sick", "Step In The Arena" and the ill B-Side track "Credit Is Due" and during a time of a lot of Gangster rap, Guru's intelligent and thought provoking lyrics was refreshing.
During 1990 and 1991, Gang Starr worked with The Dream Warriors, Subsonic 2, Wendy and Lisa, Slam Slam, MC Solaar, Cookie Crew, Loose Ends, and DJ Premier produced and /or remixed for Lord Finesse, J-Rock, Ice-T and a few others and Gang Starr were on the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack with the classic "Jazz Thing"
Gang Starr singles were getting a lot of play on Hip Hop radio and on music TV, but sadly the album didn't sell as well as it should have, thankfully this didn't deter DJ Premier and Guru and they went back into the lab and made their third album (and also my favourite Gang Starr album of all time) Daily Operation and released it in 1992.
Daily Operation was preceded by the fat Skull Snaps-"It's A New Day" drums sampling, sinister sounding "Take It Personal" and included the classic B-Side track "DWYCK" with Nice and Smooth, the album spawned the singles "Ex Girl To Next Girl", "2 Deep" and "Flip The Script" and this album also introduced the World to Jeru The Damaja, Lil Dap on "I'm The Man" who, along with Melachi The Nutcracker and Big Shug formed the Gang Starr Foundation and in 1992 Gang Starr also had a track on the Trespass movie soundtrack "Gotta Get Ova (Taking Loot)" which featured a great remix from Large Professor and a track on the White Men Can't Rap EP, the infectious "Now You're Mine" (which later appeared on the Hard To Earn album in 1994).
During 1992, (which I still consider one of the greatest years ever for Hip Hop) DJ Premier was producing for Comptons Most Wanted, Too Short, Soul II Soul, Heavy D & The Boyz, Neneh Cherry and others, it was around late 1992 that Guru started producing beats for his Acid Jazz, Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop Jazzmatazz project and sent out beat tapes to some of his favourite artists...the end result was the smooth and cafe favourite... Jazzmatazz Volume 1...
During 1992 and 1993, Guru also produced for Lisa Lisa, MC Solaar, Ronnie Jordan, Chapter 3, Here and Now, Salt N Pepa and appeared on De La Souls' "Patti Duke" Marxmen (along with DJ Premier) and with the one off group The Cutthroats with "Stop Lookin' At Me" on the Menace To Society soundtrack as well as Heavy D & The Boyz classic posse cut "A Buncha Ni---s"
Also in 1993, the Gang Starr Foundation sampler was released, which included cuts from Group Home, Big Shug, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels classic "Come Clean" (which was later release as Jeru The Damaja's "Come Clean")
and Guru's own label Illkid Records released their sampler, Ill Kid Jumbo Sampler which featured tracks from Operation Ratification, Stikken Moov, Bahamadia and HL Rock with all tracks produced by Guru.
In 1994, Guru and DJ Premier decided it was time for another Gang Starr album and released the very dope fourth album, Hard To Earn, which some have claimed was their most hardcore album to date...
Hard To Earn kicked off with a very raspy Guru sounding angry and bitter at the fakes in Hip Hop and he dominated the album with dope and memorable lines, over DJ Premier's timeless production, Hard To Earn spawned the classic singles "Mass Appeal", "Code Of The Streets", "Suckas Need Bodyguards" which featured the dope B-Side track "The ? Remainz" and in 1994 Guru continued his love for Acid Jazz and outside Hip Hop interests and produced for Espirtu, legendary Jazz artist Donald Byrd, Urban Species, Dee-Lite, D*Note, Blondie and on the Hip Hop side of things he produced for Bahamadia,Clever Jeff and Nefertiti and appeared on DJ Krush's dope album Krush on the track "B-Boy Mastamind"and Digable Planets' great second album Blowout Comb and Sweet Sable's "Love Thang" 12".
In 1995 Guru released his second Jazzmatazz album and DJ Premier produced one track "Watch What You Say" and Buckwild did a great remix of "Respect The Architect" the album sold quite well and Guru took a lot of the artists with him on a Word tour, and in 95' he also released the Guru Presents-llkid Records, which featured tracks from Bahamadia, True Master, Big Shug, Baybe, Fabidden, Group Home, Jeru The Damaja and Stikken Moov and Operation Ratification.
In 1995 Guru produced for Fabidden on the D & D Project album and for two tracks on Big Shug's debut 12" "Treat U Better" ('Stripped and Pistol Whipped", "P.D.S." he also co-produced "Treat U Better" with DJ Premier) and appeared on Group Home's debut album Livin' Proof and he even did a remix for Annie Lennox and a remix for Die Fantastischen Vier.
In 1996, Guru appeared on albums from DJ Honda along with DJ Premier on "What You Expected", China and House of Pain and produced for Deams and in 1997 he appeared on DJ Premier's album with Branford Marsalis, the Buckshot LeFonque-Music Evolution album on the track "Black Monday" and on an album from Man Doki, Guru also appeared on the Rhyme & Reason soundtrack with Kai Bee and Lil Dap on "The Way It Iz" and Guru even did a remix for the "new Mission Impossible" theme.
After 3 or so years after the last Gang Starr album, DJ Premier and Guru headed to the studio and banged out 1998's Moment of Truth, first releasing the classic single "You Know My Steez" which blew up around the World, the single also featured the dope B-Side track "So Wassup".
Moment of Truth featured the beautiful "Above The Clouds" (with Inspectah Deck) and the very introspective title track, the album also spawned the singles "1/2 and 1/2" with MOP and "The Militia" (featuring Big Shug and Bumpy Knux), there was also a dope Pete Rock remix of this released as a 12" as well as the second version featuring WC and the great Rakim and there was also a "You Know My Steez" remix featuring Kurupt and The Lady of Rage from the West Coast.
Guru produced "She Knows What She Wants" and "Make Em Pay" off the Moment of Truth album and he appeared on MOP's First Family 4 Life album on the track, "Salute Part II" which was produced by DJ Premier.
When 1999 came around Guru worked with Masta Ace ("Conflict") and the late, great Big L had sadly passed and "Full Clip" (with it's Big L rest in peace intro) was all over Hip Hop radio, on mix-tapes and fans thought a new album was coming, but instead we were treated to the Full Clip-A Decade Of Gang Starr Hits compilation, which also featured the new track "All 4 Tha Ca$h"
In 1999 Guru released a solo single and remixed for Medeski Martin & Wood and Gang Starr remixed for Macy Gray and in 2000 Guru released the third installment of the Jazzmatazz series, and although it wasn't as good as the first two, it wasn't a bad album, Guru also appeared on AG's album with the dope DJ Premier produced "Weed Scented" and Gang Starr had the "The Piece Maker" on Tony Touch's The Piecemaker album and the cover version of G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid's classic "Play That Beat" was recorded by Gang Starr as "Play That Beat 99", though it wasn't officially released.
By 2001, Gang Starr were remixing for Lina and Guru remixed for Sade and they recorded the dope single "Tha Squeeze" for the Training Day film and Guru worked with Craig David and in 2002 Guru appeared on records from Krumb Snatcha and he released an album under his Baldhead Slick alias (with one track produced by DJ Premier, "Back 2 Back") and appeared on a few albums, including ED OG's-The Truth Hurts and Cam's-Soulshine album.
There were also 2 dope Gang Starr tracks floating around this year, the crazy horn sampling "Battle" which appeared on Eminem's- 8 Mile Soundtrack and the awesome "Skills" and "Natural"
By 2003 the next and sadly final Gang Starr album was released, some welcomed The Ownerz with open arms, while others dismissed it as Gang Starr's weakest album, but they were wrong, there were some incredible tracks on this album and I always felt that they kicked things off right by releasing the dope "Rite Where U Stand (featuring Jadakiss)" track as the first single and truth be said, Guru was pretty angry on this album had a lot to say.
After The Ownerz, it seemed that Guru and DJ Premier had parted ways and as a longtime fan of Guru, I have to say that the majority of his material after The Ownerz was not very good, there were a few exceptions like "BLVD" with Afu-Ra, Big Shug-"Counter Punch, Blue Sky Black Death-Floor Chalk (Best Reprise) and I am not a fan of Solar at all and personally think that Guru steadily went downhill with his influence...so I won't even mention any of his stuff.
But here is a link if you are interested
Hip Hop has suffered a huge loss with Guru's passing and I feel very grateful that I got to see him live in 2004 and lived through his golden age, A big thanks to Velua Brown for texting me the sad news
Thank you for all the dope music, may your memory live on forever
Compilation of remixes and others coming very soon...
Big thanks to all the contributors at Discogs for a lot of this info and to all the many blogs and websites and that have done tribute posts...